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An Organ Once Deemed ‘Useless’ May Play a Role in Parkinson’s Disease

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

It turns out that the so-called “useless” little thing down in the right side of our abdomen, aka the appendix, may not be so purposeless after all. New research shows that this organ not only regulates our gut’s immune system, but may very well play a part in Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, a data analysis of a Swedish patient registry found that Parkinson’s was more prevalent in those who did not have appendectomies.

Yes, you read that correctly: Those who had appendectomies were a little less likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But before you go out and get your appendix removed as a “preventive” measure, Quartz advises that there could be other factors involved, such as your genetics or environment, which can be controlled and are far less invasive than a surgery.

Hardly a week passes without another revelation of how your gut microbiome is intimately related to your overall health, yet, as the featured article points out, complete understanding of how a complex microbial community in your intestinal tract may be related to certain neurological conditions is still out of reach.

Some of the more exciting research on Parkinson’s, however, is pointing toward the bacteria in your gut as a factor in whether you get Parkinson’s, or if you do, its severity.

As well as potentially triggering Parkinson’s, it appears that bacteria in your gut, specifically H. pylori, may also affect the absorption of one of the primary drugs used to control muscle fluctuations in patients with Parkinson's disease. Research identified H. pylori as a specific bacterium common to patients with the disease, and which impeded treatment.

What’s most important when we’re talking about this is that, again, your diet plays a crucial role in your gut health. The good news is you can improve the health of your gut microbiome, and thus may make significant changes to your health, by making small lifestyle changes.

You will be pleased to know that supporting your microbiome isn't very complicated. To optimize your microbiome both inside and out, here are just a few recommendations: 

  • Eat plenty of fermented foods 
  • Avoid antibiotics except when absolutely necessary
  • Avoid sugars and processed foods 
  • Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake

You can start with the above suggestions, and then work toward the goal of optimizing your gut flora. It may be one of the most important things you can do for your health, as optimizing your gut health is a critical component for a well-functioning immune system, which is your primary defense against virtually all disease.

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